BALTIMORE — "It’s our duty to serve these men and women that gave to us, we have to. It’s their right to have a healthy future and that’s what we’re set out to do," said Lynn Coffland, the founder and President of CAL.
Catch A Lift (CAL) is a nonprofit organization that helps veterans nationwide. They focus on using wellness and fitness to help veterans, injured in Iraq or Afghanistan, heal from their physical or mental injuries. CAL was created in honor of her brother, Cpl. Christopher Coffland who was killed in Afghanistan during a classified mission.
"We were not allowed to know those details to take that pain and make purpose which Chris always used to tell me to do. I started looking into where are our combat injured veterans going when they come home? What happens to them? And I realizes these men and women coming back had no holistic healing offered to them and Chris’s philosophy was he believed through fitness you could physically and mentally change your life so that’s what we did," Lynn explained.
They've been growing since 2010, now helping 8,000 veterans from all over. Their biggest challenge so far... covid. She said, "our veterans islotated which is something we worked for ten years to get out of isolation." So they had to dig deep and find ways to better serve their veterans.
They expanded their wellness website to make it a one stop shop for their veterans, especially for those suffering from traumatic brain injuries. They made sure to have regular check in calls and they launched a podcast, an opportunity for veterans to share.
"Most veterans feel forgotten they feel their stories doesn’t need to be told cal unique we service infantry, in battlefield… they might not have high ranks but they gave everything and they feel who remembers my story, who wasn’t to hear it? We’ll catch a lift does," Lynn explained.
Now, they also have an on boarding process. Veterans start with an eight week wellness program and a one on one coach. That's how Adam Gutierrez got started. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps for six years and spent two deployments in Iraq.
"Which was helpful to me because coach Sara would post all the workouts each day. You have that structure because I really love structure," said Gutierrez. He added,"just an amazing experience connecting with other vets in the wellness program ans then after when they offered me the job."
He's now a coach for Catch A Lift, helping other veterans like him. He said, "it’s very motivating to me talking with some of these veteran athletes what they have to overcome, their limitations and stuff doesn’t stop them they just keep pushing."
Gutierrez explained how it took him a while to get to where he is today.
"I got out and was lost and dealt with what a lot of other veterans did, A lot of self medication, drinking a lot. I was homeless for a bit... for a long time I didn’t think I did enough, I had survivors guilt."
He went to culinary school and was working in multiple restaurants in California. He got married and divorced. The best part of it all was his daughter. Ultimately, he decided to go back to school and he got certified as a personal trainer through FitOps. He became a proponent for health and wellness. "Just because of how much it’s done for my mental health and sobriety and being able to help other vets."
Gutierrez explained how he loves working for CAL. He'll be at the Baltimore event on Friday, April at the American Visionary Art Musuem. The event was canceled for the last two years because of covid so they're excited to be back this year since 65 percent of revenue comes from events.
"We as Marylanders need to hear their stories need to see what’s unfolding before out eyes, triumphs, injuries, what these men and women have gone through. You’ll hear it first hand and meet them," said Coffland.
To buy your ticket or to learn more, click here.